Friday, January 20, 2012

The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems / by Henry Petroski

". . . a scientist studies what is; an engineer creates what never was . . . by extension, science is the study of what is; engineering is the creation of what never was."

Engineering might be the most important thing in the world. Science, knowing how and why things work; Politics, knowing how and why people work; and, Liberal Arts, interpreting how and why people and things work, simply doesn't cut it. How can Science (and Math) be appropriated to meet need? What can knowledge, abstracted information, do for me? Chemistry alone can't heal, equations won't shelter and biology by itself can't nourish. Mere knowledge is useless without applying the concepts incorporated within the prescribed ideas. It takes engineering, in it's functional role, much of it the "inherent practicality of simply actuating the empirical properties of nature . . . to account for the structural, economic, environmental, and other factors that science often does not consider but which are vitally urgent to our lives." Science can only take an idea so far before engineering must get involved. Or, as Petroski so aptly puts it, "scientists warn, engineers fix." That's why this book and its author, writer of several similar titles, is so important: to explain, in very linear terminology and coherent fashion, exactly what engineering (and the role of the engineer) does to not only enhance life, but to stabilize the balance between people and nature.  (620 PETROSKI)

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